When Will God Fix My Life?

One of the more difficult tasks I face as a Christian is to see the perfect and holy plan of God play out in a fallen world.

There are some great selling points in the Bible. Lining up behind God means I never have to fear again. God is my rock, my strength, my resting place. Rest! Oh, how I love the sound of rest. Peace is also promised along with never having to worry again.

Verse, chapter, and book, all line up to show the amazing, wonderful, and awesome life of a Christian. Sign me up twice!

Then I have a bad day at work. The car breaks down. The kid gets in trouble. My friends are all on sabbatical, I get sick, A loved one dies, moths have taken up residency in my wallet, and in this crowded world with so many people in my face I can hardly breath… I feel all alone.

Do you ever flip through the pages of your Bible like you just signed a bad agreement with a used car salesman? I have. This isn’t what I thought I had bought. Is there fine print in there? Where are the parts that talk about fun, freedom, and constant happiness? I could have sworn those were in there somewhere.

Part of my problem is my ability to selectively read. When its positive, I tend to take it as literal and immediate fact. But when the Bible mentions picking up my cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus… the one who stepped through torture, and death, I tend to feel like this part is more symbolic.

When the disciples faced fear while Jesus was in the boat with them… or when we are told that prophets are never accepted in their own home towns, or even when Jesus promises suffering and persecution… well I thought He meant that for everyone else.

When we look at Christianity as a fix to our problems we end up being sorely disappointed. It’s not a cure for sickness, nor immunity to pain or loneliness. God isn’t our genie and Jesus didn’t die to take away our pity parties. With Christ we still suffer and we will all die.

Jesus didn’t take away death, he defeated it. He took away its sting. He turned it upside down. Instead of death being the end, its now the beginning. Where it once was the defeat, its now the victory. Funerals have become celebrations.

When Jesus said, “it is finished” as He died on the cross, He created the ability for us to do the same. We get to bury our loved ones knowing they are in rest. They have now gone to a place where pain can’t get to them. After a life of loss they have passed into an eternity of gain. They will never be taxed, cheated, or mistreated ever again.

No more alarm clocks, no sickness, no barking dogs, no crying babies, no traffic… we retire from the pains and losses of this life. Jesus made this possible by going first. He heaped our sins on Himself and paid the price.

He didn’t sacrifice Himself to cure hangnails or stop cars from breaking down. He came to us to take the permanency away from death. His empty tomb is the real promise made. Yes, life is better with Jesus. Yes, God can and will do amazing things in this life… but we will still suffer. We are still human. We still live in a fallen world with a terrible enemy that wants to destroy everything.

The promise Jesus made is that one day, our grave will be empty too. And because Jesus paid that ultimate price for us, we get a choice. Do we want to spend our eternity on the other side of death with the one who causes pain, promotes sickness, breaks up families, destroys lives, and deceives… or do we embrace the man who meekly climbed on the cross?

The man who cured blindness, raised the dead, walked on water, prophesied the future, and exposed the true hearts of all He encountered… just calmly allowed human men to torture and execute Him. Why? I mean, really… why?

We have to grapple with that question and come to terms with our own understanding of why someone capable of commanding the weather and the seas would simply give up Himself. The answer I have come up with is that He loves me. He loves me so much, He wants me on His side of eternity. He loves me so much He doesn’t want me to be sick anymore. He doesn’t want me to lose loved ones. He can’t stand seeing me in poverty.

And His solution is Heaven. He is going to take us home. To the place where we belong. With death defeated, we will still die… but the grave becomes a cheap hotel on the way to an amusement park. It’s the temporary place holder until the amazing and indescribable happens.

So today, I’m going to stump my toe, deal with a headache, work a tiresome job, offend someone unintentionally and get offended. Soon, I’ll lose a loved one, get sick, and eventually die myself. And that is what I live for. I have a relationship with God that assures me that life begins with Jesus’ return.

Until then, there is an enemy who has everything to lose. More specifically, he has me to lose. He will lie, corrupt, and kill to get at me. But I love the one who loved me first. The man who gave it all to me… I will give to Him. He will call my name and I’ll run out of that grave.

But this choice we have… it isn’t made at the gates of heaven with one of the saints holding a list, like we see in so many cartoons. The choice is made while we still live. It’s the decisions we make in spite of the pain. It’s how we respond, how we act, and what we do with the minutes afforded to us.

If there was a really long line to get into a great club, would a complete stranger invite you to skip the line and stand with them? Would they give up their spot for some random person wandering by? No. But a friend might. I believe Jesus plans to vouch for His friends. He is going to mark our sins as “paid” when He recognizes those that chose Him in those darker moments of life. He has every incentive to because He chose us in His absolute darkest, most lonely, moment.


Photo by Hunter Haley on Unsplash

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Do You Really Only Have One Shot?

I have always been amazed at how photographers can capture such amazing, seemingly magical moments by pressing a button at the precise moment that a breathtaking event occurs.

My recent exploration of cameras has pulled back the curtain as to how this actually happens.  First, there is a portion of time that is less than a second.  What I mean by this is you don’t just have one second to take a picture.  You can take pictures in fractions of a second.  One of the cameras I want to buy can take over 20 pictures in a single second.

Humans typically blink in a tenth of a second.  So you can quickly see how over 20 pictures during that second can get around one of many problems that can occur if you were to only snap a shot one time.  Cameras also come with a buffer.  This can hold those 20+ photos that are coming in every second for multiple seconds.  The camera is taking in pictures faster than it can permanently write them to storage so it needs a place to hold them while you are still capturing.

Once the buffer is full, or once you are done taking the pictures, it will then write the pictures captured to the camera storage for you to sort through later.  This can amount to hundreds of photos all captured in a matter of seconds.  And this explains how its done.  They just hold down the button and let the moment unfold before them.  A bird in flight, a baseball swing, a shooting star, that perfect smile…

I used to think that photographers had to stop, pull out their camera, turn it on, point, focus, and then press the button one time and hope that they were lucky enough to catch something good.  And if they missed.  If they were too early or too late… it was gone forever.

I tried photography years ago and found it frustrating because my images were always blurry and I felt like I missed every opportunity.  I feel like many of us live our lives like this.  We think we only get one shot.  And if we muster up enough of whatever we need to take it and it doesn’t go so well, we are through.

We only give our marriages one shot.  We give our friends one chance.  This situation gets only one round from me.  And if it gets painful, or hard, or frustrating… I’m out!  Maybe we give it two chances or three, but the end result is the same.  We know how to quit.  We are experts at giving up.  Wasting time on fruitless things is not something we like to do.

Whats worse is we give up on ourselves just as easily.  We get tired of making the same mistake over and over and over and we can’t comprehend how anyone could accept such failure.  Peter said that he does the things he should not do and he does not do the things he should.  I appreciate him sharing that.  It gives me hope.  I get the sense he is constantly at odds with himself.

God is the God of second chances.  But also third chances, forth chances, hundredth chances, and beyond.  Much, much beyond.  We cannot out-sin God’s grace.  It doesn’t mean we should try to, it just means we have hope if we desire a fresh start with our Father in heaven.

I want to encourage us to not only give others a chance, but to give ourselves a chance… lots of them.  God’s buffer never fills up.  If we can understand how He extends grace to others, remember that works for us too.  Bluntly put, we aren’t the exceptions we often think we are.  He loves us and forgives us when we seek that.  All of us.

 


My Wife Attacked Me With Scissors

She really did. I guess if I were to tell “her” side of the story, she was trimming hair around my ears (which makes her a saint… again, her side of the story).

Well, whichever side you believe, there was blood. Lots of it. I didn’t even feel it when she nicked my ear. It was like something out of a Mel Brooks movie. Way too much blood for such a tiny incident. It was so over the top ridiculous, I was scared to sneeze.

We tried cleaning and holding tissues to it. I gave it a good 15 minutes of holding things to it, applying pressure, etc. and figured it was good enough to jump in the shower.

When drying off, I must of grazed my ear with the towel as it was half full of blood. I cleaned it up again and tried peroxide, bandaids, tissues, weird head angles. For about 45 minutes, the blood flowed.

What started as a laughing matter began to concern me a little. We also had a clock ticking against us, we had to leave the house in 3 minutes at this point.

I started to panic. My wife was helping to try and figure out new ways of stopping the bleeding and every time she would come back in the room I would exclaim in exasperation that the bleeding hadn’t stopped yet. Each time the pitch of my voice would get higher and higher as worry and fear began to settle in.

With 3 minutes to go, I was pacing and panicked, and out of ideas. She really is a saint. She kept checking on me, trying new things, and coming up with new ideas. Finally she stopped in front of me, put her hand over my ear and began to pray.

If I’m honest, it felt silly. A tiny little nick that didn’t hurt… at worst a mild inconvenience of being late. And here we were engaging the Lord and creator of the universe.

While she poured out a heartfelt and sincere prayer, I’m thinking, “hey, I know you are dealing with wars, plagues, starving people, riots, diseases, and the devil, but if you could put all that aside for a second I’ve got this ear thing…”

What is sad to me is that I’ll be the first person to tell anyone else that no problem is too small for God. He wants to know our fears, concerns, crushes, frustrations. He is our brother and our friend. But when it comes to my own mess, I just can’t seem to get on board with it. We do the same thing in the other direction. We claim overwhelmingly that no problem is too big for God… except for what I’m dealing with right now.

Not only did I fail to follow my own advice, which I know to be true, it also never occurred to me to pray at all. Why? On multiple levels I failed. This is why psychologists can’t diagnose themselves. It’s why we can’t use ourselves as references, and it’s why mirrors are the cruelest inventions in the world.

We can’t accurately see inward. Our eyes only see in one direction. This is one of many reason why we have a church. A community of believers to help each other remember the small stuff, withstand the big stuff and to pray through all of it.

The last little bit may make some feel uncomfortable. My ear stopped bleeding. Immediately. Not even a little dried up bubble where the clot formed. There was no clot. It just stopped and dry clean skin remained. No wound. No scab. Like it never happened.

For myself, I have two questions, and I hope my lapse in judgement will help to serve as a good example for you.

1. Why didn’t I pray first?

2. Why not bring EVERYTHING before God? I firmly believe He wants us to.

For you, I have one question. Do you believe God can heal us here, now, and today? If not, ask yourself why you pray at all. Examine your prayers. Dig into the scriptures. I know an awful lot of people who pray everyday for God to be with sick, be with doctors, give comfort, etc. if you don’t believe God has power in this world, why are you praying those prayers? The very prayers Jesus taught us to pray.

“Give us bread, deliver us from evil, forgive our trespasses”. Those are actions that we request God to make in a world that we believe God is bound to be action less in. If He has the power to “guide guard and direct us” as so many of us have prayed verbatim… He has the power to remove a mass, reduce a fever, clean a blood stream, and even stop an ear from bleeding.

Or do we really believe that God can change the hearts and minds of mankind, but he can’t heal hearts and brains? Did your God flunk out of medical school and settle for bachelor’s in psychology?

I’m thankful to a God that forgives me over and over and over again. I’m thankful for His patience while I pray as a last resort when He intended it to be my first. And I’m thankful that He cares about me enough to care about what I care about, even if it would make most of us shrug.

It is Well… no, really!

The best, most wonderful, precious and amazing thing we can do is pray.  But what happens when we don’t feel like it?

Most of my blogs are about prayer.  Jesus spent a huge amount of His time in prayer.  The answer to all things Christian is prayer.  The modern Christian has little else to do but pray… But there are circumstances where prayer just seems out of reach.

We aren’t worthy, we haven’t been answered, we feel let down, we are stuck in a rut, angry at God, need a break, it hasn’t yielded positive results in months.  And… etc.

Christians aren’t called to be perfect, but we are made to endure.  The song “It is Well”, if you aren’t familiar with it’s roots, was penned by a man who just lost 4 children in a boating accident.  He didn’t have the strength to do much.  So he wrote.  When peace is with me… it is well.  When trials come… it is well too.

His wife, who couldn’t comprehend the devastation, said “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”  She was having the same moment her husband was.  It was an ‘it is well’ moment.  Devastating, horrible, unfathomable, gut wrenching, and yet… not eternal.

They knew death has been defeated by Jesus.  They knew eternity and real life starts with death.  But, as the living, we mourn the loss of those we love.  And in those moments where our hearts are floating in the abyss we can’t muster the attitude that says, lets move on, lets celebrate!  Instead, we trust God just enough to know that it is well.  Or maybe for some… it will be.

Each day can bring a new season in your life.  You may be happily faithful.  You may be being stretched and prepared for great things.  You may be in an ‘it is well’ moment.  And while we will all endure each of these, it’s very important we don’t give up.

It is well, means… I’ve lost my children, but God has gained them.

It is well, means… I’ve lost my job, but God will provide.

It is well, means… I’ve received the diagnosis, but today is not the end.

It is well, means… I’m in prison, but I can minister to my captors.

It is well, means… I’m on the cross, but its for them.

It is well, means… whatever my lot in THIS life, my soul’s path is unchanged.

It IS well.  It really is.  But there are times when our inner resources need a moment to process and catch up.  We don’t live for the playing of taps, we eagerly await angels blowing trumpets.   Tears at a graveside isn’t the end of life, shouts from the heavens are where it simply begins.

It is well, means… the tomb has been sealed, but it was empty days later.

It’s about the victory that is to come, but isn’t quite here yet.  We can’t let go of that.  The loneliness, the bitterness, the emptiness… it will create a vacuum of pain.  That is when we need it is well the most.  Not quite the power to dust ourselves off and march onward, but enough faith to know that God will deliver in His perfect timing.

One of the greatest misunderstandings in the Christian faith is why we suffer.  And why suffering builds character.  And how suffering molds us into receptive and strong foes against the enemy… how it prepares us for future needs.  How one loss prepares us better to deal with another.  And how these moments are NOT created by God… but we are guided through them, by Him.

As cliched as it sounds, don’t despair.  It is well.  God turns water into wine.  He turns blindness into sight.  And, He turns tombs into celebration.  All we have to do is weather the storm.  The end of the story for the writer of this song???  His wife gave birth to 3 more children.  But that was just a momentary pause in the story.  The end hasn’t happened yet.  He awaits, along with us, for what the true ending will be.  All he knew in life, was the ending would be worth it.  How much so, is still eagerly anticipated.

But due to their faith… because she knew God knew…  because He knew THE day was about a heavenly battle already won… they rested their hopes on days to come.  This day will pass.  A new dawn will rise.  Tomorrow brings fresh opportunity.  With time, healing abounds.  It is well.

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Small portion of the story found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Spafford

 

 

Last Chance…

What if we stopped asking the question… “how would I live differently if I had a second chance… a do-over?”

And instead… we started living like this was our second chance?  Our last chance?  A moment in time where we haven’t yet blown the next big thing?  How would you live?  How will you live now that you know… you get to choose the next moment?

All I needed was…

Just one more second.

Just one more inch.

Just one more word.

Just one more dollar.

Just one more signature.

Just one more degree.

Just one more step.

Just one more note.

Just one more answer.

Just one more try.

Success isn’t measured by our performance in the moment that matters most.  Success is measured in the preparation for those moments.  If you needed one more second to succeed, then you didn’t prepare properly.  You chose failure when you opted for rest.  You picked second place for yourself, when you needed Friday off.  You decided to have fewer friends when you were too busy to call someone back.  Choices.  Not circumstances.  Not luck.  Not what-ifs.  Options.  Decisions.  Calculated specifics.

You could have done one more yesterday… but you didn’t.  Much of life is like a transaction to me.  If you pay in reps yesterday, you succeed in an amount based on those reps today.  You can’t go back in time and make a payment just because you decided today that you want it more than you did yesterday.  Pay today for what you want tomorrow.  If you want a million dollars in your savings account, can you get there by putting in 1 dollar a day?  NO!  Why do we think we can perform miracles and ace tests we didn’t study for, win races we didn’t run, or gain acceptance we didn’t earn?

Tomorrow, you will take a test.  Wouldn’t it be neat if we could pick our grade?  I’m not going to promise that everyone can choose to get a 100 and then will get it.  What I can promise is that if you put in enough effort to get the 100 then you will.  Two things tend to happen during the training process.  We either procrastinate or we accept mediocrity.  Regardless of the path, some of us are still surprised at how we fell short.  Can I retest?  Will you curve the grade?  Did you cover that, this question didn’t make sense (i.e. its someone else’s fault)?

When I read posts like this one I tend to get sad.  I regret yesterday.  I start the inner dialogue of frustration with myself.  But I’d like to encourage us (you too) to try it from the other perspective.  While its not yesterday anymore… it’s not quite tomorrow yet either.  Why not do something you will thank yourself later for?  Train.  Study.  Live.  Love.  Do good deeds.  Embrace life so that when you can’t anymore, you savor the moments you chose.  This is the anti-regret opportunity.  This isn’t my only post like this.  It won’t be my last.  I’ve read countless others.  Why?  The struggle is real.  The Bitter reality hurts.  But the remedy is just out of your reach.  Will you figure out how to get it?

Do you feel like removing the ed from needed?  You can if you opt to get out of the past and live for the future.  Can you do one more today?  Can you go further?  Will you work harder?  Can’t you go faster?  Don’t you want to be sharper?  Those decisions are born in moments all around you.  Grab that moment and make it your success story.  Make it your time.  Make it yours.  Make it.  Choices come and go so quickly.  Stop pondering and start choosing.  Stop blaming and start excelling.  Stop excusing and start winning.  In all matters of life, YOU are the one that can conquer defeat and make tomorrow a great day.

All I NEED is to choose right now that tomorrow I’m not going to regret anything.